If you are a parent, I’m sure you have had the experience of seeing your child lying on the ground crying hysterically over what appears to be nothing.
“Show me where it hurts” is often the command that most effectively breaks through the noise. Amazingly, more often than not, nothing hurts at all.
In this metaphor, that child is the Indiana General Assembly. I will try to explain it through three legislative initiatives, none of which will ease this metaphoric child’s fragile soul.
The alleged problem they are trying to solve this session is a medical diagnosis called gender dysphoria. Those who have it and are hurting because of it are a statistically tiny percentage of young people. How tiny? Approximately 300,000 13- to 17-year-olds in all of America identify as transgender, according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
But grievance-based GOP legislators and their supporters have volunteered to play the victim here. To ease their pain, they are trying to ban treating youths diagnosed with gender dysphoria entirely. Yes, all forms of youth treatment will soon be illegal. That is what Senate Bill 480 does.
Just in relation to suicide, The Trevor Project found one in five transgender or nonbinary youth attempt suicide each year, twice the rate of cisgender youth. More than half of transgender youth consider it. These numbers don’t magically improve by banning treatment for gender dysphoria. Quite the opposite.
By contrast, having just one supportive adult, including a teacher, made LGBTQ children 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the last year, as reported by Whitney Downard of the Indiana Capital Chronicle. Remember the supportive teacher component. It will come up again.
Doctors also say the legislature is wrong on this one, claiming the proposed ban goes “against evidence-based care.” But this legislature quit trusting doctors regarding health care long ago.
The second initiative makes it more difficult to protect a child from abuse. This legislation is being pushed because of an ongoing court battle involving one Indiana family. In this one case, a child experiencing gender dysphoria also began to face a life-threatening eating disorder. That threat to the child’s survival and the inability for the disorder to be adequately addressed in the home led to the Department of Child Services removing the child. A trial court approved the removal. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision.
The familial dispute started over gender dysphoria but led to something much more than a dispute. The parents didn’t want to treat the dysphoria, much like our legislature. But then the parents also failed to address the dangerous eating disorder, resulting in the neglect finding.
In House Bill 1407, the legislature is attempting to effectively eliminate the “CHINS-6” designation that protected this child, in a blatant attempt to legislate a solution for all of Indiana to side with this one set of misguided parents.
There are two more important things to know here. First, the bill creates a new article entitled “Parental Rights and Responsibilities.” I’ve read this new article 10 times. There aren’t any “responsibilities” created, only “rights.” And in the case that inspired this awful bill, the child is no longer a child.
But gender dysphoria doesn’t always cause a familial battle. When there is unanimous agreement on the matter within a home, it would make sense that the public school the child attends would comply with the wishes of the family.
At first glance, it seems House Bill 1608 tries to come up with a way to accomplish exactly that. Until one reads the part about how no school staff member can be disciplined for failing or refusing to comply with the family’s wishes. Remember the supportive teacher from earlier? HB 1608 specifically discourages that support.
The Republican supermajorities in the Indiana legislature are not really interested in fortifying parental rights. What they want is to make sure Indiana is no place for gender to be an identity at all — even though that’s really what “gender” is.
So as a parent speaking to the legislature, I want it to tell me where it hurts. What problem is it solving here? Gender dysphoria won’t cease to exist, as you apparently wish, by not treating it. Child abuse is not OK because gender dysphoria exists.
A responsible parent would want to kiss this boo-boo and make it better. But the Indiana General Assembly apparently doesn’t do responsibilities anymore.
Michael Leppert is an author, educator and communication consultant in Indianapolis. He writes about government, politics and culture at michaelleppert.com. This commentary was originally published at indianacapitalchronicle.com. Send comments to [email protected]